Winnipeg, My Winnipeg! In the middle of summer, you’re so easy to love, but in the winter you test my commitment and make me dig deep to come up with reasons to stay.
I still haven’t forgotten the winter of 2014. The last time Winnipeg experienced such a brutal winter Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t it Make my Brown Eyes Blue” and the Bee Gees “How Deep is Your Love” topped the charts. In 1978, I would’ve made the annual train trip with my family to visit my grandfather in Winnipeg, but I don’t remember the cold. I remember eating warm apple pie at Mother Tucker’s, buying strawberry Kissing Potion from Polo Park, and the smell of mothballs in my grandfather’s orderly basement.
I was born in Winnipeg, but my dad, a periodontist, got hired by the University of Saskatchewan’s Faculty of Dentistry, so we moved back to his hometown. My mother moved away from her hometown but she always remained a Winnipegger. Trips to see my grandfather Vic in Winnipeg were one of the high points of my childhood.
When I moved to Winnipeg after I graduated from University of Saskatchewan in 1994, I fell in love with Winnipeg as a young adult. I drank pitchers of beer and listened to the blues at the Windsor Hotel, I went to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s premiere of Dracula, and I soaked up the vibrant art and literary scenes.
Before I began the corporate career climb that took me to Calgary, I had the fortune of running with some gifted poets in Winnipeg. We gave raucous poetry readings at Cousin’s and other venerable Winnipeg institutions. Through a program put on by the Manitoba Writers’ Guild, Catherine Hunter mentored me and took me through a rigorous rework of my poetry manuscript, Painted Women.
In Winnipeg, I became a poet. I didn’t realize that until I sat across from Linda Holeman at a Starbucks in Calgary to interview her for the Calgary Herald. “Oh, you’re the poet from Winnipeg,” she said before we discussed her novel, The Linnet Bird. It took me aback because my business card said Associate Editor, Oilweek. I profiled writers for the Herald, but my beat was primarily energy with an emphasis on oilsands—Alberta’s black gold.
It’s the poetry that lured me back to Winnipeg and it’s the poets, novelists, playwrights, musicians, artists, actors and dancers who keep me here. So rather than complaining about our provincial bird—the mosquito—or about how Winnipeg is colder than Mars in the wintertime, I’m going to pay homage to the city of my birth and profile some of the local folks who matter to me.
My tribute to Winnipeg will be a series of short Q&A’s with Winnipeg movers and shakers that you can read in five minutes. It’s the least I can do for the city that has given me so much.